Web Date: June 16, 2008
Chemistry Olympiad Team Chosen
At a ceremony on June 14, four chemistry students and two alternates won the right to represent the U.S. in the International Chemistry Olympiad in Budapest, Hungary, in July. The evening drew tears of both joy and disappointment.
The top four students are Jonathan Lee of Northridge, Calif.; Andrew Liu of Chesterfield, Mo.; Yuxin Xie of East Brunswick, N.J.; and Jenny Lu of Southbury, Conn. The first alternate is Elizabeth Peng of Williamsville, N.Y. The second alternate is Justin Koh of Bakersfield, Calif.
Beaming from ear to ear, Lu told C&EN that she was stunned to hear her name being called among the winners. She is only the second high school sophomore in the history of the U.S. team to make the top four. In contrast, Koh, who won a silver medal at the Olympiad in Moscow last summer, hung his head after learning he had not made this year's traveling team.
Despite his disappointment, Koh stood up when his good friend Lee's name was called, and they hugged with such force that it nearly knocked them both to the ground.
The ceremony marked the culmination of two weeks of intensive study during the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad study camp, which is organized by the American Chemical Society and is held at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs.
The 20 students who participated in the camp—15 males and five females—were the top scorers among approximately 10,000 students who took a regional exam and approximately 900 students who went on to take a national exam.
Kara Pezzi, head mentor of the U.S. team and a teacher at Appleton East High School in Wisconsin, called the ceremony "bittersweet," noting both the elation of those chosen for the team and the disappointment of those who did not make the cut.
Lee, Liu, Xie, and Lu will travel to Budapest in July, accompanied by Pezzi; mentor Will Lynch, a professor of chemistry at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga.; and peer mentor J. L. Kiappes, who won a silver medal at the International Chemistry Olympiad in Kiel, Germany, in 2004. Chemistry professor Owen Priest of Northwestern University also served as a mentor during the study camp. Kim Gardner, associate professor of chemistry at USAFA, has been the academy's Olympiad director since 1998.
Except for Lu, the members of the Olympiad team graduated high school this year and will attend college in the fall. Lee will attend Harvard University, Liu and Xie will be at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Peng will enroll in Yale University, and Koh will attend the University of California, San Diego.
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